The Dorothy Ashby inspired Freedom sessions leading light harpist Tori Handsley is gritty and almost kora-like rocking out on 'What's in a Tune'. The album opens with the sunny 'Rivers of Mind' and throughout the album there is a firm grip on melodicism. However, there is a lot of nuance and range of mood. You can't easily make assumptions about the directions the gifted harpist takes.
There has been an upsurge of interest in harp in a jazz context in recent years. But of all the harpists I have come across in recent years Tori has the clearest ideas about what she wants as a composer and all round musician and improviser. Not confining herself entirely to harp she plays piano for instance on 'Polar Retreat' and this new element injected on to the album adds a certain wistful bittersweet flavour that sits in parallel to the tunes that she leads on harp. 'Out of Sight, Out of Mind' has a beautiful atmosphere, a kind of repose where less is more.
The album features the Mercury nominated Moses Boyd on drums in reflective mood, bass guitarist Ruth Goller and vocalist Sahra Gure on selected tracks with compositions by Handsley. Gure, last heard by this blog live guesting with Cleveland Watkiss last year at the QEH during the London Jazz Festival, delivers a very memorable vocal on 'Out of Sight, Out of Mind'. I am surprised how intimate the effect is overall on an album that could well have beeen high energy all the way but which certainly isn't. The variety is impressive and Tori's method is far more holistic than it could have been by being too narrowly floaty. 'Home' has a strong African flavour and you get that great dimension quite a lot on the album, Tori seems to like the pentatonic building blocks to shape her direction and flavour her style. Thoroughly recommended. Out on Cadillac.